Understanding the words used in your Will

Are you thinking of writing a Will? Have you perhaps heard of terms like “Executor”, “Bequest”, “Living Will” and are now worried that the process of writing your Will may be beyond you? You may be wondering whether it is possible to write a Will without understanding all of these legal expressions. After all, that’s why many people hire a lawyer to prepare the document for them.

You may be surprised to learn that you really don’t need to understand any of these legal words in order to use a service like LegalWills.ca. However, the words may appear in your final Will, and in that context they will make sense to you. We also explain some of the key definitions when you are working through the service. But you may be interested to learn exactly what some of these words actually mean.

Perhaps you wrote your Will with a lawyer. You have had it witnessed and now it’s stored at your lawyer’s office but you still have no idea what it says. Don’t worry, this isn’t an uncommon situation. Many people go through the whole task of writing a Will and signing it when they don’t fully understand what it says.

Unfortunately in today’s legal world, estate attorneys don’t always have sufficient time to go over every detail and word of a Will. This is partly because their time costs money, but also because writing a Will is an everyday common practice to them. Therefore, they often neglect to go over the basics with their clients. An experienced and understanding estate attorney should always be willing to go over every detail of your Will and explain any confusing language so that you feel comfortable when signing it. However, the legal environment can be intimidating and attorneys may assume that you understand the legal terms when in fact you don’t.

Understanding legal words in the Will

At LegalWills.ca we almost fall into the same pattern ourselves when we talk to customers about the “Executor” and the “Beneficiaries”. We forget that some people may be hearing these words for the first time. They are words that are rarely, if ever, used outside of the context of writing a Will.

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Working with a Will – The most common problems that arise

At LegalWills.ca, we help you to write your Will. We do not get involved in the probate process at all. After you have died, your Will is probated, and your Executor has the responsibility to carry out the instructions in your Will. Sometimes this is where the problems start and estate disputes arise.

This is separate from a challenge to a Will. These are arguments arising while the estate is being managed by the Executor.

We recently spoke to Neil Milton of Ontario-Probate.ca. He specialized in probating of estates and has seen first hand the kinds of problems that can arise, and he also knows how to fix them.

He has kindly prepared this guest article, distilling his knowledge into the most common types of disputes that crop up while the Executor is trying to manage an estate.


Common estate disputes

While there are many causes of estate disputes, formal ‘will challenges’ are actually quite rare.

Common estate disputes
Credit: 123rf

There are a whole host of grievances that people have which usually fall in to one of the falling categories:

  • Debts incurred by the deceased before their death and not paid before death;
  • Gifts made by the deceased before their death which reduce the size of their estate;
  • Obligations created by statute which must be paid by the estate before any distribution is made to beneficiaries;
  • Failure of the estate trustee to act at all;
  • Improper actions by the estate trustee; and,
  • Allegations that the will itself should be invalid (a ‘will challenge’).

Disputes in these difference categories are often handled by the Courts very differently – some are relatively quick and inexpensive to pursue, others are very complex and expensive.  It is very important to get the advice of experience legal counsel to determine whether there is a case and if so how to pursue it.

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What happens to your debt when you die?

We are often asked this question from people who have been named as the Executor in a Will. They need to know if they are personally liable for any debts owed and what if there is not enough in the estate to cover them. What happens to your debt when you die?

Our friends at Ratehub have put together this article for us as a guest post.


What happens to your debt when you die?
Credit: 123rf

Debt is a part of life, and most Canadians are carrying around a significant amount, be it through credit cards, mortgages, and other lines of credit. With so many of us relying on credit, it’s no surprise that people often die with outstanding debts left unpaid.

It’s not always easy to talk about, but it’s important to make a plan for your debt ahead of time. Here’s a primer on what happens to debt when you die in Canada, which can help you get started.

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Probate in Canada – What it is, what it costs, how to reduce fees.

Must my Will go through probate?

To understand whether or not your Will needs to go through the probate process, you have to understand what happens after you have died.

Hopefully you have written a Last Will and Testament.

In your Will you name an Executor. This is the person that you entrust to gather and secure your assets. Your Executor then has to distribute the assets according to the instructions in your Will.

The Executor must collect up everything you own, keep it safe and secure until everything has been collected, and then pass these possessions and financial assets to your beneficiaries.

Let us imagine a scenario.

Imagine your Executor going to your bank and presenting them with the Will. They explain to the bank that you have died and they show your Will to the cashier. The Will names your Executor. The person you have named shows their ID and they request the contents of the bank account. This person could even be one of your own children. Continue reading

Preparing a Last Will and Testament – top ten reasons why you need one now.

There have probably been a number of situations in your life when you have thought, “I should be preparing a Last Will and Testament.” And for some reason or another you have never actually taken the steps needed to update or create your Will. Don’t feel too embarrassed, because you are certainly not alone. In 2016 only 38 per cent of Canadian adults had signed a legally valid Will. Of those that did, one third were out of date.

Even if the data was restricted to Canadians over the age of 35, only 38 percent of those polled had a legal, up-to-date Will.

Preparing a Last Will and Testament

               Canadian adults with a Last Will and Testament

Legal Will

       Canadian adults over the age of 35 with a legal Last Will and Testament

This leaves a lot of people legally unprepared and their families unprotected or provided for.

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Before you make a Will – some definitions for non-lawyers

Writing your Will can be a very simple process, but because it is only done a few times in your life, it can be intimidating. It can seem daunting because there are so many unfamiliar terms used in the estate planning world. Expressions that are second nature to the legal community, but are not in everyday use for the rest of us. Before you make a Will, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the more common expressions.

Just because the terms are unfamiliar, they are not complicated concepts. In this article we will explain a few of the words that you will need to know before you make a Will. We hope that we can demystified the process a little.

Mke a Will

 

Intestate

The term intestate is typical of much of the legal language in that it is derived from Latin, and in today’s World it means that you have died without a Will. Continue reading

Challenging a Will: What are the grounds for contesting a Will in Canada?

I was told that if I don’t create a Will through a lawyer, somebody will end up challenging the Will. Is that true?

This is one of the most common misconceptions we hear related to preparing one’s own Will. If you prepare a Will through a lawyer’s office for $600 it won’t be challenged, but it you write a Will yourself, or through a service like LegalWills.ca it is bound to be contested. The reality is that any Will can be contested, but challenging a Will can only be successful under one of eight conditions.

 

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